Guido Baracchi September 1920

Proletarian Comment

Source: "Reason in Revolt", Source documents of Australian Radicalism;
First Published: in The Proletarian Review, Editorial “Proletarian Comment” by the Editor (Guido Baracchi), September 1920;
Transcribed: by Chris Clayton.

Political Prisoners and Mass Action.

MORE than once in these columns we have written of the importance of the political strike, of the imminence and potentialities of its development. As if to prove our words, the executive of the New South Wales Labor Council has formulated a plan for the resistance by the working-class of further deportations from Australia, a plan which, according to the reports of the capitalist press, includes “irritation strikes, go slow strikes, stop work meetings, propaganda on warships, and the application of the ‘darg’ in the coal mines.” Against this plan, involving, as it does, a mass action of the workers which, if not yet revolutionary, is at least political, the New South Wales Premier fulminates a tirade entirely worthy of a Labor lieutenant of the capitalist class. In the course of this tirade, he scores, at the most, a single point. Since deportations, he says, are at an end, the plan of the executive of the Labor Council to prevent them is “shadow-sparring.” But even if deportations are really at an end, it is, nevertheless, an easy matter to oblige Mr. Storey and make the proposal for political mass action something other than shadow-sparring. If this proposal should aim to force you to find means of releasing from gaol the two I.W.W. agitators you have so far failed to liberate, how, Mr. Storey, would it suit you then? And if the New South Wales workers who have entered on a struggle for a working week of forty-four hours should add to this a further demand for the release of King and Reeve, how would that suit you, Mr. Storey? However such things would suit a petty bourgeois “Labor” Premier, to work for them is the plain duty of Communists in New South Wales. If, by an intense propaganda, they can develop out of the industrial struggles of the workers the concept and practice of political mass action, they will have gone far towards developing the concept of that revolutionary mass action whose practice leads the proletariat to the final conquest of power.

Workmen’s Councils.

TO the attention of those who assert that the Soviet is a purely Russian form, with no application to the conquest of power by the Australian proletariat, we heartily recommend some recent happenings in England. We had already observed that the workers of such widely diversified countries as Germany, Hungary and Italy formed Soviets during a revolutionary crisis; we have now witnessed a similar occurrence during [a] tense situation in another land. With the recent threat of open aggression by English capitalism against Russian Communism, the Labor Council of Action sprang up in England, and it was reported that local councils were also being formed. If it is argued that subsequent cable messages make it clear that the central council is in the hands of reactionary elements, we answer that precisely the same thing was the case with the Russian Soviets prior to the November Revolution. Let a crisis develop in England which the “moderates” are able to control, and, if not the present Council of Action, then future similar councils will fall into the hands of the revolutionists. Should a revolution ensue, these councils will then naturally constitute the mechanism of proletarian dictatorship. We see accordingly that, wherever the proletarian revolution raises its head, the organisation of the workers takes Soviet shape; we know moreover, that the comprehensiveness — since it includes all wage-earners — and the flexibility — s exemplified in Russia — of the Soviet organisation, make it an ideal political instrument for the transition stage between capitalism and communism. In view of these facts, we not only fail to see the inapplicability of Workmen’s Councils in Australia, but we hold that probabilities point to the actual forging of some such instrument of proletarian power in the fires of the Australian revolution.

Parliamentary Action.

WHEN the Ballarat Trades Hall Council read our reprint of the Third International’s letter on parliamentary action, it refused any longer to handle the “Proletarian Review.” This is a blow to Communist from which it may be doubted whether it will ever recover; nevertheless, we must maintain our opinion that it is through mass action, and not through Parliament, that the workers conquer power. We must persist, further, that the value of parliamentary action to the workers lies, not in “constructive legislation” and bureaucratic petty bourgeois reform measures, but in revolutionary criticism, in developing the industrial action of the masses, in awakening their revolutionary consciousness. For we hold with the Third International that just as in Russia, in Germany, in Sweden, and in Bulgaria, to take a few actual instances, the tribune of Parliament has been exploited for revolutionary purposes, so, by the participation of a Communist Party in election campaigns and legislative debates, revolutionary propaganda is no less possible in countries like Australia. In non-revolutionary situations, a Communist Party can avail itself of these propaganda opportunities to expose the shame of capitalist democracy. Again, when the workers win one or more battles of revolutionary potentiality, the doors of the legislative halls are likely to be thrown wide open to the Laborite betrayers of the workers’ struggle, who will then become invaluable agents of the capitalist class in keeping alive the illusions of parliamentary democracy. In such a situation, Communists can make good use, both of elections and of the floor of the House, to expose this deception and keep to the front the slogan “Down with the parliamentary sham of capitalism! Hail to the Soviets and real working-class democracy!” On the other hand, when a revolutionary crisis itself shatters the mass illusions as to capitalist democracy, and whenever the elections would be a diversion from the mass action of the workers, the boycotting of elections is the proper policy for Communists. By those who doubt the practicability of all this, it may be argued that we are only theorising. Exactly so. The precise revolutionary value of parliamentary action in Australia can be finally determined only by experiment. What is wanted is a strong Communist Party which shall, among other more important tasks, proceed to make this experiment.

Communist Party and O.B.U.

THE released I.W.W. men have lost not a moment in plunging back into the proletarian struggle. They are actively engaged in estimating the present situation of their class, and many workers await expectantly their pronouncement upon the line of action they intend to follow. In these circumstances, we commend to the serious consideration of the ten men the great lessons of the Russian Revolution, lessons which in every respect confirm the teachings of Engels and Marx, and which find definite expression in the programmes of Communist parties and the Third International. The Communist programme appreciates the importance of the O.B.U concept which the I.W.W. men did much to popularise, while it rejects the concept that the O.B.U. alone is necessary for the conquest of capitalism, it appreciates the importance of industrial unionism as a factor both in the revolutionary struggle and in the Communist reconstruction of society. But the Communist programme also appreciates the importance of the concepts of mass action and proletarian dictatorship, of the experience of the proletarian revolution in action. And this experience has proven beyond question the supreme necessity for a strongly disciplined, centralised party, which, unlike the O.B.U., does not organise in its ranks all and sundry, but welds into one compact body all Communists, sending them forth to function everywhere, in the factories, in the unions, even in the bourgeois parliaments, as the agents of universal revolution. Wherever the class struggle may be fought, wherever working-men may be influenced, there, subject to the centralised control of their party, must groups of revolutionists function, leading their more backward fellow-workers to the understanding and the action of Communism. The achievement of such an organisation, adequate to every exigency of revolution, may be difficult; it may not even be immediately possible; nevertheless, it is indispensable and must be aimed at. “The Communist International,” writes its president in recent communication, “holds out the hand of brotherhood to the I.W.W.” Will the I.W.W. men respond by helping to build up the Communist Party of Australia?